CODE OF PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT
Many professional bodies have a code of professional conduct, like the Institute of Linguistics in the United Kingdom.284 The German Federation of Translators developed a similar code of professional honor.
One of the first principles of translators’ behavior is objectivity and impartiality. A translator, or rather an interpreter, is a mediator of communication but not its active participant. He cannot take part in the discussion he translates. A translator is generally expected not to side with either party. If a speaker’s arguments seem weak to him, he must translate them as convincingly (or not) as does the speaker. The interpreter cannot correct the speaker even if he knows that the latter is evidently mistaken. In order to “wash his hands” of the wrong statement, the interpreter can stress that it is the speaker’s point of view: Как говорит оратор… Neither vocal, nor facial expression should betray the interpreter’s thoughts and feelings. Generally speaking, interpreting involves a high level of neutrality and detachment.
The interpreter’s speech must be clear and distinct. He must not mumble and stumble. No matter what and how a speaker might be talking, the interpreter must be logical and grammatically correct. A sentence begun must be completed. There is a stereotype that well-respected participants speak according to the standard norms. Thus mistakes in translating will inevitably be attributed to the interpreter and not to the speaker.
It is recommended that the interpreter learn beforehand the names and positions of the communicators to avoid further troubles.
The interpreter is not responsible for the content of what he is translating. He cannot translate what was not said (though in informal situations, the interpreter may deviate slightly from this rule and, taking into account the difference in cultures, makes necessary comments.) Awareness of non-verbal communication will be of great help to the interpreter in any situation,285 though he is not obliged to translate gestures.
An interpreter must keep information from the talks confidential. When working at several negotiations concerning the same problem, the translator cannot make the participants understand that he is aware of some information on the problem.
An interpreter normally speaks in the first person singular; the third person deixis is employed when it is necessary to introduce the speaker, when the communicator speaks about the interpreter, or in informal situations with several participants. It is not recommended using in Russian the pronoun он / она - it is better to name a person (either in full name or with the courtesy title ‘господин / госпожа’.
The place of an interpreter depends on the type of ceremony. It is crucial that the interpreter hear and be heard well. In translating informal talks, the interpreter usually stands between the communicants, to the left of his chief. When translating officials, the interpreter is to the left and behind the official. At the conference, the interpreter can be at the podium, in the presidium, at a microphone. An interpreter can check with the speaker if he did not hear or understand something properly. But, of course, echoing questions should not be frequent, especially in translating official talks.
It is admissible, though not desirable, to interrupt very long utterances of a speaker. It is better to make an agreement with the speaker beforehand about the length of utterances s/he is going to speak. An interpreter should always have paper and pencil with him, ready to take notes.
An interpreter must be very punctual. He must be observant of the time and arrive on time. Negotiations cannot start without him. It is even desirable that the interpreter come a little earlier than appointed, because the participants may decide at the last moment to start the discussion earlier, or the interpreter’s help may be needed for discussing some problems before the talks.
An interpreter must work with modesty and dignity. He must avoid both overfamiliarity (even if he is on friendly terms with the negotiation participants) and servility towards the communicators. He must be self-assured: he knows that the worst translation is better than absence of one286 (the theory is disputable, however). He must not let the talks participants correct him and he should do everything to make them believe in his professional competence.
His manners must be reserved and official, the clothes neat and not garish.
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